How to reduce the size of the PMBOK Guide? PGR1

With the recent release of the PMBOK Guide edition, I felt it is important to reflect back on something I wrote a long time ago and worth sharing again.

Before we move on to this article. This article focuses on the size of the guide not because we are interested in how many KG it weighs or how many pages but to answer a fundamental question: is the current size of the guide appropriate to its valuable content?

Then a related question: cannot we have the valuable information in the guide (all parts) transferred via 600 pages, 400 pages, or even a 200 pages document?

We can discuss content and specific topics in other blog posts.

Historical Perspective

Maybe the table below is a good historical reference for the first 5 editions

PMBOK Guide Changes

If we add a line for the sixth edition it would look like this:

2017Sixth51049~ 800

By the way, this is without the Agile Practice Guide

In other words, no changes in process groups or knowledge areas, 3 processes added and one deleted for a net change of 2 processes.

In other words, between the first edition and the sixth, the growth is more than 4 fold and even from the last edition – close to 200 pages of additional papers.

Are all of these pages necessary? Can we reduce the size without reducing the value?

How to Reduce the Size of the PMBOK Guide


The guide already includes a great deal of white space. In other words, the text covers only about 60 to 80% of most pages leaving 20 to 40% blank white space.

We believe just eliminating these unnecessary white spaces (the empty areas on pages) will probably be more than enough to cover additional content. There is no logical reason to start a new paragraph or part of a chapter on a new page. Only new chapters should start on new pages.

Remove redundancies

There are many topics that are mentioned several times, in almost identical terms, in different places. A solution for this would be a strict editor to remove these redundancies[1].

Separating the Standard from the Guide

This is related to the previous point of redundancies. Why not separate the ANSI Approved Standard and publish it as a standalone document like ISO 21500? This way, people can truly understand there are a standard and a guide instead of burying the standard as an annex.

Inputs – Tools & Techniques – Outputs

The guide’s current structure, covering all of the inputs – tools and techniques – and outputs has many repetitions; some of these could also be eliminated. However, we do not want to lose this content. There are two options to maintain the content.

Option 1: Practice standards

When the PMBOK® Guide was published in 1996, it was a single standard in the PMI library[2]. Therefore, covering all of the inputs – tools, and techniques – and outputs (ITTOs) might have been necessary. Today, PMI publishes a practice standard for every knowledge area, well almost. These practice standards have the same processes with their ITTOs.

Consequently, our recommendation would be:

  • PMI to publish a few more practice standards to cover the topics that do not have practice standards now, and
  • Remove all of the inputs – tools, and techniques – and outputs details from the PMBOK® Guide and putting them in the practice standard documents.

Option 2: Segregating ITTOs[3]

There are many common inputs and outputs can be grouped in an introductory chapter. Then, provide a table showing where each input-output is used.

Similarly, one can do the same for common tools, such as PMIS and expert judgment. Only provide the name of the tool in the knowledge area, and have a tools chapter at the end providing sufficient detail to understand the objective of the tool, but not how it works in detail.

Concluding Remarks

Honestly, I do not see the value of this many pages, especially that many people will buy hard copies or print their PDF copies. This is neither in line with the spirit of corporate social responsibility nor sustainability practices. If there is a need for this volume we can understand but what is the need?

Can anyone explain to us: is there really a huge/substantial / revolutionary/game-changing / etc. changes from the first edition to the sixth to justify adding more than 600 pages?

We have too many other comments but we reserve those to other posts. Will keep this one on size. The good news, maybe, if you bring copies of the guide to PMP classes you will get a good workout; no need for the gym that day.


[1] Idea from Mr. Crispin (“Kik”) Piney, PfMP, PgMP

[2] We realize there were other publications but as a standard, if we are not mistaken, it was the only one.

[3] Idea is also by Mr. Piney




This entry was posted in Applying Project Management, How to, PMBOK Guide and tagged , , on by .

About Mounir Ajam

A Project Management thought leader, who believes that project management touches all people, in all aspects of life; personal and professional.Initiated and led the formation of SUKAD Corp to develop the Uruk PPM Platform.An advocate of real-world, practical and applied project management.Champion of adaptive project management, tailored methods, and organizational project management.Available anywhere in the world to advise executives and organizations on the strategic value of project management. Ready to help organizations build and sustain the Project Management Function and the capacity to lead projects successfully.